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July 7, 2021Alerts

SB 664, Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19

On June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed SB 664, Optional Year of Education Due to COVID-19, into law.

  • This bill allows for an additional school year for students aging out of special education.  This will enable students with disabilities who turned 21 during the 2020-2021 school year to attend school during the 2021-2022 school year. The bill is clear that all IDEA provisions apply during this additional year.  In addition, deciding to attend for this additional year does not replace any student’s ability to pursue compensatory education for gaps and losses that have occurred.
  • The bill also allows any K-12 student to repeat their 2020-2021 school year. Parents can make this decision for students under 18, and students 18 and over can decide for themselves if they want to repeat.  It is important to note the extra year of eligibility beyond age 21 only applies to this year. If a student who is not aging out in 2020-2021 elects to repeat a lower school grade, it will not result in an extra year of eligibility beyond age 21 at the end of their school career.

Parents should consider carefully whether to retain their child in their grade.  Information from Wrightslaw on the research on the potentially damaging effects of retention on students, particularly students with disabilities, is here and here.

Education Law Center has also shared important considerations about retention:

Many students experienced learning losses and significant educational disruptions due to COVID-19. But a decision to retain a child in grade is a significant one. Factors to consider include the age and grade of the child, potential for stigma, and social-emotional considerations, including the loss of a peer group and the potential for undermining self-esteem. Parents can learn more about research on grade retention here and here.

July 15th is the deadline to notify your school if you want your child to have an additional school year.   

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has issued guidance on how parents, guardians, and students may elect to repeat a grade level during the 2021-22 academic year. The form to be submitted to your school district by July 15th can be found here:  Act 66 of 2021 Student Grade Level Retainment Notification Form.

Please contact Disability Rights Pennsylvania at 1-800-692-7443 x400 to discuss questions about your student’s situation.

*This post has been updated as of 7/7/2021.